To date, blockade of growth factor receptors is the mainstay of targeted therapy in metastatic breast cancer (mBC). Monoclonal antibodies such as trastuzumab and bevacizumab represent the first generation of molecular-based therapies. Both the HER2 inhibitors and the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antagonists have shown synergism with a broad spectrum of established cytotoxins, thus being approved for first-line treatment of mBC in combination with taxanes. As a next step, tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) have been integrated into daily routine as an alternative approach for targeting HER2: The dual HER1/2 inhibitor lapatinib demonstrated activity in trastuzumab-pretreated mBC patients in combination with capecitabine. Furthermore, chemotherapy-free regimens (trastuzumab or lapatinib plus aromatase inhibitors) have been identified as additional options for hormone receptor (HR)- and HER2-positive patients. Recently published data indicate that a combination of two biologicals such as lapatinib and trastuzumab can be effective as a treatment beyond trastuzumab related progression. Multitarget TKIs have the potential to inhibit several signaling pathways involved in breast cancer-related angiogenesis. Until now, they have failed to show a clear benefit in mBC. On the other hand, poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibition, mediated by a new class of small molecules, is an interesting area of investigation. Future directions of research in HER2-positive breast cancer focus on the evaluation of novel antibodies (pertuzumab, T-DM1), and irreversible TKIs (neratinib, BIBW 2992) and inhibitors of HER2-related downstream signaling (mTOR, TORC 1/2, PI3K/Akt) and of receptor cross-talk (IGFR).
Breast cancer, metastatic; Anti-angiogenesis; Antibody; PARP inhibition; Multitargeting
This review summarizes some of the key signaling pathways involved in tumor progression and some of the novel therapies that are in development for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer patients.
Greater understanding of the underlying etiology and biology of breast cancer is enabling the clinical development of targeted therapies for metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Following the successful introduction of trastuzumab, the first human epidermal growth factor receptor (HER) biologically targeted therapy to become widely used in MBC patients, other agents have been developed. Novel agents include monoclonal antibodies such as pertuzumab, which bind to receptors on the cell surface, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) such as lapatinib, which target intracellular pathways such as that of the epidermal growth factor receptor. There is also growing clinical experience with antiangiogenic agents, particularly in combination with chemotherapy. These include the monoclonal antibody bevacizumab, which targets vascular endothelial growth factor receptor, and multitargeted TKIs with antiangiogenic and antiproliferative activities, such as sunitinib. Combination treatment with multiple agents targeting both the HER family and angiogenic pathways (e.g., trastuzumab plus bevacizumab) is also showing activity in the clinical setting. Despite recent advances, there are unanswered questions regarding the management of MBC with targeted agents. Future studies are necessary to determine the optimal combinations, doses, and schedules required to maximize clinical activity while minimizing toxicity. Despite the temptation to use a targeted agent in all patients, identification of patient subgroups most likely to benefit must be a key goal and will be critical to the successful future use of these treatments. The aim of this review is to summarize some of the key signaling pathways involved in tumor progression and some of the novel therapies that are in development for MBC.
Human epidermal growth factor receptor; Metastatic breast cancer; Signaling pathways; Vascular endothelial growth factor; Tyrosine kinase inhibitors
Pertuzumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody directed at the dimerization domain of the receptor tyrosine-protein kinase erbB-2 (HER2) receptor. It possesses a unique and complimentary mechanism of action compared to trastuzumab, which has historically been the cornerstone of therapy for HER2-amplified breast cancer. Clinical trials demonstrate improved outcomes, with minimal increases in toxicity with the addition of pertuzumab to trastuzumab in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, indicating the advantage of dual HER2 receptor blockade. Pertuzumab is approved as first-line therapy in combination with trastuzumab and docetaxel for HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer, with future opportunities to investigate its efficacy in other stages of breast cancer, as well as in the treatment of other malignancies.
Humanized monoclonal antibody; HER2 receptor; Metastatic breast cancer; Pertuzumab
One-third of breast cancers display amplifications of the ERBB2 gene encoding the HER2 kinase receptor. Trastuzumab, a humanized antibody directed against an epitope on subdomain IV of the extracellular domain of HER2 is used for therapy of HER2-overexpressing mammary tumors. However, many tumors are either natively resistant or acquire resistance against Trastuzumab. Antibodies directed to different epitopes on the extracellular domain of HER2 are promising candidates for replacement or combinatorial therapy. For example, Pertuzumab that binds to subdomain II of HER2 extracellular domain and inhibits receptor dimerization is under clinical trial. Alternative antibodies directed to novel HER2 epitopes may serve as additional tools for breast cancer therapy. Our aim was to generate novel anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies inhibiting the growth of breast cancer cells, either alone or in combination with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α).
Mice were immunized against SK-BR-3 cells and recombinant HER2 extracellular domain protein to produce monoclonal antibodies. Anti-HER2 antibodies were characterized with breast cancer cell lines using immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, immunoprecipitation, western blot techniques. Antibody epitopes were localized using plasmids encoding recombinant HER2 protein variants. Antibodies, either alone or in combination with TNF-α, were tested for their effects on breast cancer cell proliferation.
We produced five new anti-HER2 monoclonal antibodies, all directed against conformational epitope or epitopes restricted to the native form of the extracellular domain. When tested alone, some antibodies inhibited modestly but significantly the growth of SK-BR-3, BT-474 and MDA-MB-361 cells displaying ERBB2 amplification. They had no detectable effect on MCF-7 and T47D cells lacking ERBB2 amplification. When tested in combination with TNF-α, antibodies acted synergistically on SK-BR-3 cells, but antagonistically on BT-474 cells. A representative anti-HER2 antibody inhibited Akt and ERK1/2 phosphorylation leading to cyclin D1 accumulation and growth arrest in SK-BR-3 cells, independently from TNF-α.
Novel antibodies against extracellular domain of HER2 may serve as potent anti-cancer bioactive molecules. Cell-dependent synergy and antagonism between anti-HER2 antibodies and TNF-α provide evidence for a complex interplay between HER2 and TNF-α signaling pathways. Such complexity may drastically affect the outcome of HER2-directed therapeutic interventions.
HER2; ERBB2; TNF-α; Monoclonal Antibodies; Epitope Mapping; Growth Inhibition; Breast Cancer; Synergy; Antagonism
For many years, the medical treatment of breast cancer was reliant solely on cytotoxic chemotherapy. However, over the past twenty years, treatment has evolved to a more target-directed approach. We now employ tailored therapy based on the presence or absence of receptors for estrogen, progesterone, and human epidermal growth factor 2 (HER2). We expect this trend to continue, as agents that use novel approaches to target HER2, as well as targeting different portions of the HER signaling pathway, are in various stages of development. Notably, pertuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody that binds to a different domain of the extracellular portion of the HER2 receptor than trastuzumab, was recently approved for use, as was lapatinib, a small-molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor. Patients with triple negative breast cancer, particularly those with the BRCA mutation, have more limited treatment options and carry a worse prognosis than those who are hormone receptor positive. However, recent data has shown that PARP inhibitors may have significant anti-tumor effect in those with this subtype of breast cancer. Novel agents that inhibit mTOR, PI3K, the insulin-like growth factor, heat shock protein 90, and histone deacetylase have shown promise in phase I-III trials and offer exciting new possibilities for the treatment of this often fatal disease. As we are presented with an ever increasing number of treatment options, the timing and combinations of therapeutic agents used becomes ever more complex in the age of personalized care, but we are hopeful that ultimately this will lead to improved patient outcomes.
breast cancer; chemotherapy; novel therapeutics; biologics; HER2; PARP inhibitors.
Following FDA approval of trastuzumab in 1998 and lapatinib in 2007, several clinical studies have addressed the question of whether trastuzumab and lapatinib combination therapy is better than trastuzumab alone in the metastatic breast cancer and neoadjuvant setting. In this review, updated to September 2012, we focus on the relevant clinical trials that address this question and, based on the available data, reach conclusions regarding a rational and reasonably individualized approach to the management of HER2+ breast cancer. With the FDA approval of pertuzumab in June 2012 and the likely approval of T-DM1 approaching, several ethical issues overshadow the excitement oncologists have for these new treatment options. We discuss the potential evolution of highly active anti-HER2 therapy (HAAHT) as an optimal treatment paradigm for HER2+ breast cancer. Additionally, we review lessons learned from the evolution of HAART for HIV treatment.
HER2; breast cancer; lapatinib; trastuzumab; dual; T-DM1; pertuzumab
Approximately 20%–30% of metastatic breast cancers show increased expression of the human epidermal growth factor receptor-2 (HER2) tyrosine kinase. Two HER2-specific therapies are currently approved for clinical treatment of patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody against HER2 and is approved for first-line treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Lapatinib is a small molecule dual inhibitor of epidermal growth factor receptor and HER2 tyrosine kinases, and is approved for trastuzumab-refractory disease. Although trastuzumab is a highly effective therapy for patients with HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer, a significant number of patients in the initial clinical trials of trastuzumab monotherapy showed resistance to trastuzumab-based therapy. Further, among those who did respond, the initial trials indicated that the median time to progression was less than 1 year. Similarly, lapatinib is effective in a subset of trastuzumab-refractory cases, but the majority of patients display resistance. This review discusses the multiple molecular mechanisms of resistance that have been proposed in the literature. In addition, novel agents that are being tested for efficacy against HER2-positive breast cancer, including the antibodies pertuzumab and trastuzumab-DM1 and the immunotoxin affitoxin, are reviewed. The introduction of trastuzumab has revolutionized the clinical care of patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer and has resulted in dramatic reductions in recurrences of early-stage HER2-positive breast cancer. The development and implementation of gene- and protein-based assays that measure potential molecular predictors of trastuzumab resistance will allow individualization of HER2-targeted therapeutic approaches, and may ultimately improve treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer.
ErbB2; Herceptin; trastuzumab; drug resistance; neratinib; lapatinib; affitoxin
The past decade of research into HER2-overexpressing breast cancer has provided significant insight into the mechanisms by which HER2 signaling drives tumor progression, as well as potential mechanisms by which cancer cells escape the anticancer activity of HER2-targeted therapy. Many of these preclinical findings have been translated into clinical development, resulting in novel combinations of HER2-targeted therapies and combinations of trastuzumab plus inhibitors of resistance pathways. In this paper, we will discuss proposed mechanisms of trastuzumab resistance, including epitope masking, cross signaling from other cell surface receptors, hyperactive downstream signaling, and failure to induce antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity. In addition, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms of action of dual HER2 inhibition, specifically the combination of trastuzumab plus lapatinib or trastuzumab with pertuzumab. We will also discuss data supporting therapeutic combinations of trastuzumab with agents targeted against molecules implicated in trastuzumab resistance. The roles of insulin-like growth factor-I receptor and the estrogen receptor are discussed in the context of resistance to HER2-targeted therapies. Finally, we will examine the major issues that need to be addressed in order to translate these combinations from the bench to the clinic, including the need to establish relevant biomarkers to select for those patients who are most likely to benefit from a particular drug combination.
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody targeted to the Her2 receptor and approved for treatment of Her2-positive breast cancer. Among patients who initially respond to trastuzumab therapy, resistance typically arises within one year. BT/HerR cells are trastuzumab-resistant variants of Her2-positive BT474 breast cancer cells. The salient feature of BT/HerR cells is failure to down-regulate PI3K/Akt signaling upon trastuzumab binding. The current work addresses the mechanism of sustained signaling in BT/HerR cells, focusing on the protein kinase A (PKA) pathway.
We performed microarray analysis on BT/HerR and BT474 cell lines to identify genes that were up- or down-regulated in trastuzumab resistant cells. Specific genes in the PKA pathway were quantified using RT-PCR and Western hybridization. SiRNA transfection was used to determine the effects of gene knockdown on cellular response to trastuzumab. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays were used to measure cAMP-responsive element binding activity under defined conditions. Immunohistochemistry was used to analyze protein expression in clinical samples.
BT/HerR cells had elevated PKA signaling activity and several genes in the PKA regulatory network had altered expression in these cells. Down-regulation of one such gene, the PKA-RIIα regulatory subunit, conferred partial trastuzumab resistance in Her2-positive BT474 and SK-Br-3 cell lines. Forskolin activation of PKA also produced significant protection against trastuzumab-mediated Akt dephosphorylation. In patient samples, PKA signaling appeared to be enhanced in residual disease remaining after trastuzumab-containing neoadjuvant therapy.
Activation of PKA signaling may be one mechanism contributing to trastuzumab resistance in Her2-positive breast cancer. We propose a molecular model by which PKA confers its effects.
PKA; PKA-RIIα; Herceptin; breast cancer; drug resistance
Inhibition of the HER-2 pathway via the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab has had a major impact in treatment of HER-2 positive breast cancer, but de novo or acquired resistance may reduce its effectiveness. The known interplay between the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and HER-2 receptors and pathways creates a rationale for combined anti-EGFR and anti-HER-2 therapy in HER-2 positive metastatic breast cancer (MBC), and toxicities associated with the use of multiple chemotherapeutic agents together with biological therapies may also be reduced. We conducted a prospective, single arm, phase I/II trial to determine the efficacy and toxicity of the combination of trastuzumab with the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib and docetaxel, in patients with HER-2 positive MBC. The maximum tolerated dose (MTD) was determined in the phase I portion. The primary end point of the phase II portion was progression-free survival (PFS). Immunohistochemical analysis of biomarker expression of the PKA-related proteins cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), phospho-CREB and DARPP-32 (dopamine and cAMP-regulated phosphoprotein of 32 kDa) plus t-DARPP (the truncated isoform of DARPP-32); PTEN; p-p70 S6K; and EGFR was conducted on tissue from metastatic sites. Nine patients were treated in the phase I portion of the study and 22 in the phase II portion. The MTD was gefitinib 250 mg on days 2–14, trastuzumab 6 mg/kg, and docetaxel 60 mg/m2 every 21 days. For the 29 patients treated at the MTD, median PFS was 12.7 months, with complete and partial response rates of 18 and 46%, and a stable disease rate of 29%. No statistically significant correlation was found between response and expression of any biomarkers. We conclude that the combination of gefitinib, trastuzumab, and docetaxel is feasible and effective. Expression of the biomarkers examined did not predict outcome in this sample of HER-2 overexpressing metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer; HER2; Gefitinib; Phosphatase and tensin homolog; Protein kinase A; Trastuzumab
Trastuzumab (Herceptin®) is the first FDA-approved therapeutic targeting a HER-family receptor tyrosine kinase (HER2/ErbB2/neu). Although trastuzumab is effective in the treatment of HER2-positive breast cancer, a substantial proportion of patients will not respond to trastuzumab-based regimens (primary resistance), and those who do respond will often lose clinical benefit (i.e., secondary resistance). While multiple mechanisms underlying the development of secondary trastuzumab resistance have been identified, few studies have specifically examined the basis of primary trastuzumab resistance. Here, we review these studies, which, together, demonstrate that trastuzumab induces phenotypic changes in tumor cells, even when they are not growth inhibited by trastuzumab, including changes in gene expression. These changes have important clinical implications, including sensitization of malignant cells to other therapeutic drugs. In light of these observations, we propose that the conventional definition of “resistance” as it pertains to trastuzumab and, perhaps, to other targeted therapeutics, may require revision. The results of these studies will be useful in informing the direction of future basic and clinical research focused on overcoming primary trastuzumab resistance.
EGFR/ErbB/HER; trastuzumab/herceptin; breast cancer; targeted therapeutics; primary resistance
Purpose of review
HER2 overexpression is correlated with aggressive tumor behavior and poor clinical outcome. Therefore, HER2 has become an important prognostic and predictive factor, as well as a target for molecular therapies. The article reviews recent advances in molecular imaging of HER2 that could facilitate individual approaches to targeted therapy of HER2-positive breast cancers.
Because of the heterogeneity of breast cancer and possible discordance in HER2 status between primary tumors and distant metastases, assessment of HER2 expression by non-invasive imaging may become an important complement to immunohistochemistry or fluorescence in situ hybridization analyses of biopsied tissue. Monoclonal antibodies such as trastuzumab and pertuzumab, or small scaffold proteins such as Affibody molecules are used as HER2-targeting agents. For imaging purposes, these agents are labelled with positron-, gamma-emitting radionuclides, optical dyes, or paramagnetic contrast molecules for PET, SPECT, optical, and magnetic resonance imaging, respectively. HER2-specific molecular probes combined with modern imaging techniques, providing information on HER2 expression not only in primary tumors but also in distant metastases not amenable to biopsy may reduce problems with false negative results and, thereby, influence patient management by selecting patients that would benefit from HER2-targeted therapies.
The new “Image and Treat” strategy, involving assessment of target presence and distribution in an individual patient followed by optimized, target-specific drug delivery, may potentially improve efficacy of cancer treatment while reducing side effects.
Breast cancer; HER2; Molecular imaging; PET; SPECT; MRI; Optical imaging
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody targeted against the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor. Although trastuzumab is a very active agent in HER2-overexpressing breast cancer, the majority of patients with metastatic HER2-overexpressing breast cancer who initially respond to trastuzumab develop resistance within 1 year of initiation of treatment and, in the adjuvant setting, progress despite trastuzumab-based therapy. The antibody-drug conjugate trastuzumab-DM1 (T-DM1) was designed to combine the biological activity of trastuzumab with the targeted delivery of a highly potent antimicrotubule agent, DM1 (N-methyl-N-[3-mercapto-1-oxopropyl]-l-alanine ester of maytansinol), a maytansine derivative, to HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. T-DM1 is the first antibody-drug conjugate with a nonreducible thioether linker in clinical trials. Phase I and II clinical trials of T-DM1 as a single agent and in combination with paclitaxel, docetaxel and pertuzumab have shown clinical activity and a favorable safety profile in patients with HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. Two randomized phase III trials of T-DM1 are awaiting final results; the EMILIA trial is evaluating T-DM1 compared with lapatinib plus capecitabine, and early positive results have been reported. The MARIANNE trial is evaluating T-DM1 plus placebo versus T-DM1 plus pertuzumab versus trastuzumab plus a taxane. Here, we summarize evidence from clinical studies and discuss the potential clinical implications of T-DM1.
The discovery of amplification of human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2), a member of the epidermal growth factor receptor family, was an important milestone in our understanding of the biology of breast cancers. This heralded the discovery of trastuzumab, a humanized monoclonal antibody targeting HER2. Trastuzumab is the foundation of treatment of HER2-positive breast cancers, demonstrating dramatic responses in patients with metastatic disease. Unfortunately, most tumors will inevitably develop resistance to trastuzumab, necessitating the need for alternate HER2-directed therapeutic approaches. Recent advances in our understanding of the interaction between HER2 and other members of the epidermal growth factor receptor family have led to identification of newer agents, resulting in the expansion of the clinical armamentarium of available agents for the treatment of HER2-positive tumors. In this article, we review the molecular biology of the ERbb receptor family, the use of HER2-targeted agents in early and advanced breast cancer, and the next-generation anti-HER2 agents that are currently in clinical evaluation.
HER2; trastuzumab; breast cancer; pertuzumab; T-DM1
Since the introduction of trastuzumab into the treatment of Her-2/neu-positive metastatic breast cancer, cases of long-term survival have become more frequent. Even after tumor progression, trastuzumab seems to retain its antitumor activity which is potentiated by the combination with a chemotherapeutic agent.
We are reporting about the unusual clinical course of a young patient with Her-2/neu-positive breast cancer, who experienced progression of pulmonary and bone metastases under treatment with trastuzumab. Upon progression, a combination therapy with capecitabine/trastuzumab was initiated, and a partial remission was achieved which has continued for over 4 years.
This unusual clinical course shows that continuing trastuzumab-based therapy beyond progression is a safe, effective, and well-tolerated option which can induce long-term remissions in some patients with Her-2/neu-positive metastatic breast cancer.
Breast cancer; Metastasized; Capecitabine; Trastuzumab
Trastuzumab is a monoclonal antibody targeted against the HER2 tyrosine kinase receptor. The majority of patients with metastatic breast cancer who initially respond to trastuzumab develop resistance within one year of treatment initiation, and in the adjuvant setting 15% of patients still relapse despite trastuzumab-based therapy. In this review, we discuss potential mechanisms of antitumor activity by trastuzumab, and how these mechanisms become altered to promote therapeutic resistance. We also discuss novel therapies that may improve the efficacy of trastuzumab, and that offer hope that the survival of breast cancer patients with HER2-overexpressing tumors can be vastly improved.
HER-2/neu (a receptor for human epidermal growth factor) is involved in cell survival, proliferation, angiogenesis and invasiveness. It is overexpressed in about 25% of breast cancers. Overexpression of HER-2 is associated with response to the anti-HER-2 antibody trastuzumab (herceptin). However, HER-2 expression can be heterogeneous within the primary tumour and can also exhibit discordant expression between a primary tumour and its metastases, bringing into question the practice of HER-2 screening to determine whether a patient is a candidate for trastuzumab using material obtained only from the primary tumour. Medical imaging modalities using HER-2-targeted tracers (or contrast agents) facilitate a global approach to the determination of HER-2 expression across all detectable tumour lesions, and could provide a more reliable indication of the patient's likely response to trastuzumab treatment. Here, I review the development and pre-clinical (and occasional clinical) assessment of HER-2-targeted tracers. I discuss studies in which established imaging tracers, such as 11C-choline, have been used to determine response to trastuzumab in a range of medical imaging modalities, including positron emission tomography (PET), single photon emission tomography (SPECT), MRI and optical imaging.
Trastuzumab is effective in the treatment of HER2/neu over-expressing breast cancer, but not all patients benefit from it. In vitro data suggest a role for HER3 in the initiation of signaling activity involving the AKT–mTOR pathway leading to trastuzumab insensitivity. We sought to investigate the potential of HER3 alone and in the context of p95HER2 (p95), a trastuzumab resistance marker, as biomarkers of trastuzumab escape. Using the VeraTag® assay platform, we developed a dual antibody proximity-based assay for the precise quantitation of HER3 total protein (H3T) from formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) breast tumors. We then measured H3T in 89 patients with metastatic breast cancer treated with trastuzumab-based therapy, and correlated the results with progression-free survival and overall survival using Kaplan–Meier and decision tree analyses that also included HER2 total (H2T) and p95 expression levels. Within the sub-population of patients that over-expressed HER2, high levels of HER3 and/or p95 protein expression were significantly associated with poor clinical outcomes on trastuzumab-based therapy. Based on quantitative H3T, p95, and H2T measurements, multiple subtypes of HER2-positive breast cancer were identified that differ in their outcome following trastuzumab therapy. These data suggest that HER3 and p95 are informative biomarkers of clinical outcomes on trastuzumab therapy, and that multiple subtypes of HER2-positive breast cancer may be defined by quantitative measurements of H3T, p95, and H2T.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10549-013-2665-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Breast cancer; HER2; HER3; p95HER2; Trastuzumab
The role of targeted therapies in the treatment of women with breast cancer has been rapidly evolving. Trastuzumab, a monoclonal antibody against the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (her2), was the first her2-targeted therapy that clearly demonstrated a significant clinical benefit for women with her2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer (mbc). However, in recent years it has become increasingly apparent that, when trastuzumab is used in the first-line setting in combination with chemotherapy, most women eventually develop progressive disease. Determining the treatment options available to women who have progressed while on trastuzumab therapy has been hampered by a paucity of high-quality published data. In addition, with the standard use of trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting (for eligible her2-positive patients), the role of anti-her2 agents for patients who experience a breast cancer relapse has become a clinically relevant question. This manuscript reviews current available data and outlines suggestions from a panel of Canadian oncologists about the use of trastuzumab and other her2-targeted agents in two key mbc indications:
Treatment for women with her2-positive mbc progressing on trastuzumab (that is, treatment beyond progression)Treatment for women with her2-positive mbc recurring following adjuvant trastuzumab (that is, re-treatment)
The suggestions set out here will continue to evolve as data and future trials with trastuzumab and other her2-targeted agents emerge.
Metastatic breast cancer; trastuzumab; treatment beyond progression; re-treatment; her2-targeted therapy
Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) is overexpressed in around 20–30% of breast cancer tumors. It is associated with a more aggressive disease, higher recurrence rate, and increased mortality. Trastuzumab is a HER2 receptor blocker that has become the standard of care for the treatment of HER2 positive breast cancer. The effectiveness of Trastuzumab has been well validated in research as well as in clinical practice. The addition of Trastuzumab to standard of care chemotherapy in clinical trials has been shown to improve outcomes for early stage as well as metastatic HER2 positive breast cancer. The most clinically significant side effect of Trastuzumab is the risk of cardiac myocyte injury, leading to the development of congestive heart failure. The emergence of patterns of resistance to Trastuzumab has led to the discovery of new monoclonal antibodies and other targeted agents aimed at overcoming Trastuzumab resistance and improving survival in patients diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancers.
The standard targeted therapy for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer is the HER2 monoclonal antibody, trastuzumab. Although effective, many patients eventually develop trastuzumab resistance. The dual EGFR/HER2 small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib is approved for use in trastuzumab-refractory metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer. However, lapatinib resistance is a problem as most patients with trastuzumab-refractory disease do not benefit from lapatinib. Understanding the mechanisms underlying lapatinib resistance may ultimately facilitate development of new therapeutic strategies for HER2-overexpressing breast cancer. Our current results indicate that MEK inhibition increases lapatinib-mediated cytotoxicity in resistant HER2-overexpressing breast cancer cells. We genetically and pharmacologically blocked MEK/ERK signaling and evaluated lapatinib response by trypan blue exclusion, anchorage-independent growth assays, flow cytometric cell cycle and apoptosis analysis, and in tumor xenografts. Combined MEK inhibition and lapatinib treatment reduced phosphorylated ERK more than single agent treatment. In addition, Western blots, immunofluorescence, and immunohistochemistry demonstrated that the combination of MEK inhibitor plus lapatinib reduced nuclear expression of the MEK/ERK downstream proto-oncogene FOXM1. Genetic knockdown of MEK was tested for the ability to increase lapatinib-mediated cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in JIMT-1 and MDA361 cells. Finally, xenograft studies demonstrated that combined pharmacological inhibition of MEK plus lapatinib suppressed tumor growth and reduced expression of FOXM1 in HER2-overexpressing breast cancers that are resistant to trastuzumab and lapatinib. Our results suggest that FoxM1 contributes to lapatinib resistance downstream of MEK signaling, and supports further study of pharmacological MEK inhibition to improve response to lapatinib in HER2-overexpressing trastuzumab-resistant breast cancer.
lapatinib; HER2; erbB2; breast cancer; resistance; MEK
In breast cancer cells with HER2 gene amplification, HER2 receptors exist on the cell surface as monomers, homodimers and heterodimers with EGFR/HER3. The therapeutic antibody trastuzumab, an approved therapy for HER2+ breast cancer, cannot block ligand-induced HER2 heterodimers, suggesting it cannot effectively inhibit HER2 signaling. Hence, HER2 oligomeric states may predict the odds of a clinical response to trastuzumab in HER2-driven tumors. To test this hypothesis, we generated non-transformed human MCF10A mammary epithelial cells stably expressing a chimeric HER2-FKBP molecule that could be conditionally induced to homodimerize by adding the FKBP ligand AP1510, or instead induced to heterodimerize with EGFR or HER3 by adding the heterodimer ligands EGF/TGFα or heregulin. AP1510, EGF, and heregulin each induced growth of MCF10A cells expressing HER2-FKBP. As expected, trastuzumab inhibited homodimer-mediated but not heterodimer-mediated cell growth. In contrast, the HER2 antibody pertuzumab, which blocks HER2 heterodimerization, inhibited growth induced by heregulin but not AP1510. Lastly, HER2/EGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitor lapatinib blocked both homodimer- and heterodimer-induced growth. AP1510 triggered phosphorylation of Erk1/2 but not AKT, whereas trastuzumab inhibited AP1510-induced Erk1/2 phosphorylation and Shc-HER2 homodimer binding, but not TGFα-induced AKT phosphorylation. Consistent with these observations, high levels of HER2 homodimers correlated with longer time to progression following trastuzumab therapy in a cohort of HER2-overexpressing patients. Together, our findings corroborate the hypothesis that HER2 oligomeric states regulate HER2 signaling, also arguing that trastuzumab sensitivity of homodimers reflects an inability to activate the PI3K/AKT pathway. One of the most important clinical implications of our results is that high levels of HER2 homodimers may predict a positive response to trastuzumab.
Trastuzumab; HER2; receptor dimerization; breast cancer; ErbB network
Angiogenesis has a clear and definite role in the breast cancer progression process, making antivascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies an attractive option for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer (MBC). Bevacizumab is a potent humanized monoclonal antibody to VEGF, which has shown regression of breast cancer in preclinical and clinical setting, either alone or in combination with cytotoxic treatment. Additionally, bevacizumab potentially increases the effectiveness of other anticancer therapies through the normalization of tumor vasculature, reduction of intratumoral pressure and improved tumor oxygenation. Phase 1/2 trials showed significant antitumor effects of bevacizumab in MBC, in particular in tumors not expressing HER2 receptor. A first phase 3 trial in pre-treated MBC patients showed better response rates but no survival benefit from the addition of bevacizumab to capecitabine. However, in two phase 2 trial in first-line setting in patients with MBC, bevacizumab improved progression-free survival in combination with weekly paclitaxel in comparison to paclitaxel alone or in combination with 3-weekly docetaxel in comparison with docetaxel alone, respectively. Bevacizumab in combination with taxanes seems to be a highly effective first-line treatment for MBC patients. Future research will investigate bevacizumab in the neoadjuvant or adjuvant setting, where even more potential may exist for these patients.
bevacizumab; breast cancer; HER2; HER2-negative breast cancer
Resistance to the HER2-targeted antibody trastuzumab is a major clinical concern in the treatment of HER2-overexpressing metastatic breast cancer. Increased expression or signaling of the insulin-like growth factor-I receptor (IGF-IR) has been reported in a subset of cell lines and clinical samples derived from trastuzumab-resistant breast cancers. Genetic and pharmacologic inhibition of IGF-IR signaling has been shown to improve response to trastuzumab in trastuzumab-naïve and trastuzumab-resistant models. In this paper, we will discuss the role of IGF-IR signaling in trastuzumab resistance. Further, we will discuss cotargeting IGF-IR and HER2 as a potential therapeutic strategy for HER2-over-expressing breast cancers that have progressed on trastuzumab treatment.
Trastuzumab has been shown to be an effective therapy for women with breast cancer that overexpresses the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (her2) protein. In the pivotal metastatic breast cancer trials, cardiac dysfunction was observed in women treated with trastuzumab and chemotherapy. The incidence and severity of cardiac dysfunction was greatest among patients who received trastuzumab in combination with anthracycline-based therapy. Those findings influenced the design of subsequent trastuzumab trials to include prospective evaluations of cardiac effects and protocols for cardiac monitoring and management. The risk of cardiotoxicity has also driven efforts to develop non-anthracycline-based regimens for women with her2-positive breast cancers.
With the increasing use of trastuzumab, particularly in the curative adjuvant setting, the need for a rational approach to the treatment and cardiac management of the relevant patient population is clear. The mandate of the Canadian Trastuzumab Working Group was to formulate recommendations, based on available data, for the assessment and management of cardiac complications during adjuvant trastuzumab therapy. The panel formulated recommendations in four areas:
Risk factors for cardiotoxicityEffects of various regimensMonitoringManagement
The recommendations published here are expected to evolve as more data become available and experience with trastuzumab in the adjuvant setting grows.
Early-stage breast cancer; trastuzumab; cardiotoxicity; anthracycline; adjuvant chemotherapy